Dental implants are the best option for replacing a missing tooth, for the simple reason that the end result is almost like a natural tooth. They're not the only option, but unlike dental bridges or partial dentures, implants mimic the function of a natural tooth because an implant has an artificial root system (which is the titanium alloy bolt implanted into your jaw). However, not everyone is able to receive a dental implant without first having their jaw prepared, although you might be able to avoid this additional treatment when your missing tooth is in your upper dental arch. So what are your options?
Bone Density and Bite Pressure
Put simply, your jaw bone maintains a certain level of density in order to support the bite pressure that your teeth must endure. When a tooth is missing, this density is no longer necessary and the jaw bone directly at the site of the missing tooth will lose a small amount of mass. This can be reversed with bone grafting, in which a small amount of bone material (either your own, from a donor, or a synthetic material) is grafted onto the deficient area to restore its mass. However, when you need a dental implant in your upper jaw (known as the maxilla), your lack of bone density won't necessarily be a problem.
Bone grafting can increase your overall treatment time, which is why (if possible), it's avoided when your implant is to be placed in your maxilla. Most dental implants are placed directly into the jaw. The bone then fuses around the titanium alloy bolt, anchoring it and allowing for the prosthetic tooth to be attached to the implant. An implant in the maxilla can utilize a different approach.
The Zygomatic Bone
A zygoma implant is placed in the zygomatic bone, which is the medical term for your cheekbone. Your cheekbone typically has more density than your jaw bone, and the empty dental socket will not have affected its density. Placement of an implant in your zygomatic bone results in an implant that has the same load-bearing capabilities as an implant placed in your jaw, meaning it will be more than able to handle the consistent bite pressure that the prosthetic crown attached to the implant will experience.
If your tooth has been missing for some years, bone grafting can be a necessity. However, when the missing tooth is in your upper dental arch, you might be able to bypass the need for bone grafting with a zygoma implant.
For more information about dental implants, contact a local dental office, like Koehn Dentistry & Aesthetics.